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O's deal Ayala to Braves for lefty prospect

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BOSTON -- Luis Ayala was on his way to the visiting clubhouse at Fenway Park on Wednesday afternoon in advance of the Orioles' game against the Red Sox when he learned he had been traded to the Atlanta Braves in exchange for Minor League pitcher Chris Jones.

"He was a mess in the bullpen, in a good way, in a positive way," reliever Pedro Strop said of Ayala, part of a close-knit relief corps that fueled the Orioles' playoff run last season. "He would always keep everyone awake and paying attention to the game, but at the same time [be] joking around. He was a great guy, a great teammate. Hopefully he will be all right."

Shipping Ayala to Atlanta makes it easier for Baltimore to retain Rule 5 pitcher T.J. McFarland and go back to a four-man bench. The O's had been shopping Ayala since the spring, and the trade puts the club's bullpen back at seven. The move also allowed the team to select the contract of infielder/outfielder Chris Dickerson in advance of Wednesday's game.

"[Executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette] and I knew it wasn't something we wanted to do very long," manager Buck Showalter said of playing with an extra pitcher and a three-man bench. "We had to wait until we could get the right player back and the right deal where Luis was concerned. We will see. We got a 23-year-old left-handed pitcher [in McFarland]. He's going to have to have some success in order to keep him. We can't just carry some guy, but we like him.

"It wasn't completely about keeping T.J. We like the player we got back. We knew we weren't going to be at 13 pitchers all year. After the off-day, we felt it was going to be a good time to go."

Ayala posted a 2.64 ERA in 66 games for the Orioles last year, and his club option was picked up over the winter. He pitched in two games this season, allowing two runs on four hits over two innings. Jones, 24, is 24-20 with a 3.58 ERA over seven Minor League seasons with the Cleveland and Atlanta organizations. The lefty posted a 3.90 ERA in 45 appearances in relief for Double-A Mississippi in 2012.

Given the Orioles' inconsistency in the starting rotation, having a seven-man bullpen could be tricky to maneuver. Brian Matusz and Darren O'Day both have options, but the setup man, who signed an extension this spring, isn't going anywhere.

"We don't look at it as one less [pitcher]. We had one extra," Showalter said. "If there's an adjustment that needs to be made, we will make it. We can go back to three positions players very easily, and we can do it out of our bullpen if we have to. Our maneuverability is still the same it was. Obviously Luis didn't give us any maneuverability."

Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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